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Can you tell if your dog has an ACL tear?

The Mittens Team

As pet parents we are always trying to protect our pets from a variety of issues - we feed them the best food, exercise them regularly and bring them to the vet for their checkups. But life with pets can take unpredictable turns, and before you know it, your baby is in pain. A common issue that our team gets asked about alot is how to know if your dog has an ACL tear? And then what should you do about it?

We decided to write this blog to help you figure it out...

Firstly we should clarify that an ACL in humans is called a CCL in dogs though they are essentially the same injury. CCL stands for cranial cruciate ligament by the way.

There are two types of CCLs that can occur - first due to a traumatic injury and second as a chronic degenerative disease with an unknown cause. If your dog overexerts herself during play or exercise then the trauma to her legs can cause rupture. This is a less common injury. On the other hand, the chronic form of the disease where the dog's ligament gradually degenerates causes most cases of CCL.

How can you tell if your dog might have a CCL?

A CCL is generally diagnosed when your pet is showing symptoms of hind limb lameness, knee arthritis or pain. But other telltale signs are size and breed, which are related to the genetics of the dog. Unfortunately, CCLs are a common injury in larger dogs. So breeds like a Rottweilers, Newfoundlands, Staffordshire Terriers, Mastiffs, Akitas, Saint Bernards, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers are more predisposed to this problem. And a dog's bone structure, weight or poor body condition could also contribute to a CCL.

So what can you do if your dog does rupture his CCL?

First and foremost, if you see your dog limping or showing any of the signs we discussed you should take them to your vet to get a proper diagnosis. Your vet may also refer you to a veterinary orthopedist to discuss options about about surgery vs. medical management.

The good news is that 85-90% of CCL cases show significant improvement with surgical repair. But its also very important to follow veterinary instructions on physical therapy and limiting movement as they are crucial for healing.

If you are wondering about how to prevent your dog from tearing his CCL, there are some options. While life with pets can't be predicted the best ways to avoid a CCL is to maintain a lean body mass and healthy weight. This means feeding a healthy diet and daily exercise beginning at the puppy stage.

You may also be wondering, if my dog tears one CCL, what are the chances that he will tear the other one? Unfortunately, 40-60% of dogs who have had one CCL will develop similar CCL disease in the other knee.

If your pet is a larger dog and you are concerned about a potential CCL, Team Mittens recommends that you be extra careful with their diet and exercise needs. And if they do end up with a CCL inspite of it all, then give us a call. We will create a follow up care plan and provide recommendations to help you both get through it.

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